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Friday, 25 Tevet 5778 / January 12, 2018

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Shvuot - Chapter 10, Shvuot - Chapter 11, Shvuot - Chapter 12

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Shvuot - Chapter 10

1

If [both] or one of [the plaintiff's] witnesses was unacceptable, a relative,1 or even one of those disqualified from testifying by Rabbinic decree, the king - who is not fit to give testimony2 - was one of his witnesses, or the witnesses heard the testimony from other witnesses,3 [although] they both denied [knowing testimony] and took an oath, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut,4 for had they testified, they would not have obligated [the defendant] to pay.5

א

היו עדיו או אחד מהן פסול או קרוב ואפילו מפסולי עדות של דבריהם, או שהיה המלך אחד מעדיו שאינו ראוי להעיד, או שהיו עד מפי עד וכפרו ונשבעו פטורין משבועת העדות שאילו (הודו) העידו לא היו מחייבין בעדותן ממון.

2

[If the plaintiff said:] "I am administering an oath to you that you come and testify on my behalf that so-and-so promised to give me 200 zuz, but he did not," and [the witnesses] denied [knowledge of the matter] and took an oath, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. For even if they would testify concerning the matter, the defendant would not be liable financially because of his statement.6 Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

ב

משביע אני עליכם שתבאו ותעידו לי שאמר איש פלוני שיתן לי מאתים זוז ולא נתן וכפרו הרי אלו פטורין משבועת העדות, שאם העידו בדבר זה לא יתחייב הנתבע ממון באמירתו, וכן כל כיוצא בזה.

3

If one charged [witnesses] with testifying that he was a priest or a Levite, or that he was not the son of a woman who underwent divorce or chalitzah,7 and [the witnesses] denied [knowledge of the matter] and took an oath, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. For this is not a financial claim.

ג

תבען להעיד לו שהוא כהן או לוי או שאינו בן גרושה או בן חלוצה וכפרו ונשבעו פטורין משבועת העדות שאין כאן עדות ממון.

4

[Similarly, although the witnesses] denied [knowledge of the matter] and took an oath, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut [if the plaintiff] charges them with testifying [with regard to the following claims]:

his son inflicted a wound upon him,

so-and-so kindled his grainheap on the Sabbath,

so-and-so raped or seduced his virgin daughter who had been consecrated.

[The rationale is that] if they were to give this testimony the defendant would be liable for execution by the court8 and not for making financial recompense as we explained in Hilchot Na'arah.9 Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

ד

תבען שיעידו לו שחבל בו בנו ושהדליק פלוני גדישו בשבת ושאנס פלוני או פתה בתו המאורסה וכפרו ונשבעו פטורין משבועת העדות, שאם העידו עדות זו יתחייב הנתבע מיתת ב"ד ואינו חייב תשלומין כמו שבארנו בהלכות נערה וכן כל כיוצא בזה.

5

If there was [only] one witness, he denied [knowledge of a financial claim], and an oath was administered to him, he is not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. [The rationale is that] the testimony of one witness does not obligate financial payment.10

ה

היה עד אחד וכפר והשביעו פטור משבועת העדות שאין עדות עד אחד מחייבת ממון.

6

If one charged two witnesses with testifying that his wife committed adultery and they denied [knowledge of the matter] and took an oath to that effect, they are liable for a sh'vuat haedut. For if they had testified, they would have caused her to forfeit [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.11 Thus the one who charged them with testifying would be freed from liability. Hence the witnesses have denied a financial claim.

ו

תבע את שני עדיו שיעידו לו שזנתה אשתו וכפרו ונשבעו הרי אלו חייבין בשבועת העדות, שאילו העידו היה מפסידין לה כתובתה ויפטר זה שתבען והרי כפרו בעדות ממון.

7

If [a husband] charges witnesses - [either witnesses] who observed him administering a [sotah] warning12 or those who observed her entering into privacy with the man concerning whom she was warned - with testifying, and they denied [knowledge of the matter] and took an oath to that effect, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. [The rationale is that] even if they had testified, [the testimony] would not result in a financial claim only in the obligation to have her drink [the sotah] waters. Although this testimony [can] cause her to forfeit [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah if she does not drink [the sotah waters],13 a matter that could lead to a financial claim is not considered as a financial claim. For it is possible that she will drink the waters and not invalidate her ketubah.

ז

תבע עדי קנוי או עדי סתירה וכפרו ונשבעו פטורין משבועת העדות שאילו העידו אין חיוב ממון כאן אלא להשקותה בלבד, ואע"פ שעדות זו גורמת לה שתפסיד כתובתה אם לא תשתה דבר שגורם לממון אינו כממון שהרי אפשר שתשתה ולא תשבור כתובתה.

8

[A witness] is liable for a sh'vuat haedut [in the following situation. A man] issued a [sotah] warning to his wife. She entered into privacy [as observed by] two witnesses and then committed adultery, [as observed by] one witness after being warned and entering into privacy. If [the husband] administered an oath to this witness that he come and testify and he denied knowledge [of the matter], he is liable. Although he is only one witness, if he would have delivered this testimony, the woman would have been divorced without receiving [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah as explained in Hilchot Sotah.14

ח

הרי שקנא לאשתו ונסתרה בעדים וזנתה בעד אחד אחר הקנוי והסתירה והשביע עד זה שיבא ויעיד וכפר חייב בשבועת העדות שאע"פ שהוא עד אחד אילו העיד עדות זו היתה יוצאה בלא כתובה כמו שבארנו בהלכות סוטה.

9

Similarly, in any other instance where the testimony of one witness creates a financial obligation, if that witness denies knowledge [of the matter] and took an oath or an oath was administered to him in court supporting his denial, he is liable for a sh'vuat haedut.

ט

וכן כל עד אחד שמחייב ממון בעדותו אם כפר ונשבע או שהשביעו בבית דין וכפר חייב משום שבועת העדות.

10

What is implied? Both the plaintiff and the defendant were reputed [to take false] oaths15and hence they are not given the opportunity to take oaths, [the plaintiff] administered an oath to one witness that he should come and testify that so-and-so owes him a maneh and he denied [knowledge of the matter], he is liable for a sh'vuat haedut. For were he to have testified, the defendant would have been required to pay because of his testimony, as will be explained in Hilchot To'en.16 Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

י

כיצד כגון שהיה התובע והנתבע חשודין על השבועה שאין משביעין אותם והשביע לעד אחד שיבא ויעיד לו שיש לו ביד זה מנה וכפר הרי זה חייב משום שבועת העדות שאילו העיד היה הנתבע הזה משלם ממון בעדותו כמו שיתבאר בהלכות טוען וכן כל כיוצא בזה.

11

When a woman administers an oath to one witness that he testify regarding the death of her husband and he denies [knowledge of the matter], he is liable for a sh'vuat haedut. Were he to have testified, she would have married and received [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.17

יא

האשה שהשביעה עד אחד שיעיד לה במיתת בעלה וכפר חייב בשבועת העדות שאילו העיד היתה נשאת ונוטלת כתובתה.

12

When does the above apply? When she could have collected [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah from movable property.18 If, however, she could only have collected [this sum] by expropriating landed property, [the witness] is not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. This also applies if there are two witnesses, for when one administers an oath [to witnesses for claims] involving landed property, they are not liable [for a sh'vuat haedut,] as we explained.19

יב

במה דברים אמורים כשהיה לה לגבות כתובתה מן המטלטלין אבל אם אין לה לגבות כתובתה אלא מן הקרקע הרי זה פטור משבועת העדות, וכן אם היו שנים, שהמשביע עדי קרקע פטורין כמו שבארנו.

13

When a person administers an oath to witnesses in a court and both denied [knowledge of the matter] at once, e.g., the second witness began his denial immediately after the statements of his colleague,20 they are both liable for a sh'vuat haedut. Each one of them must bring a sin offering21 for his oath. If the first one denied [knowledge of the matter] and the second witness waited longer than the appointed time period and then denied [knowledge of the matter], the first [witness] is liable for a sh'vuat haedut and the second is exempt. For even if the second had acknowledged [the obligation], his testimony would not have obligated [the defendant] financially.22

יג

השביע עדיו בבית דין וכפרו שניהם כאחת, כגון שהתחיל השני לכפור בתוך כדי דבורו של חבירו שניהם חייבין בשבועת העדות וכל אחד ואחד מביא חטאתו על שבועתו, כפר הראשון ושהה העד השני יותר מכדי דיבור ואח"כ כפר, הראשון חייב בשבועת העדות והשני פטור משבועת העדות, שאילו הודה זה השני לא היתה עדותו מחייבת ממון.

14

If one of the witnesses acknowledged [the claim] and the other denied [knowledge of it], the one who denied is liable whether he made his denial before [the other witness' acknowledgement] or afterwards.23 If they both denied [knowledge of the matter] at the same time and then one took the initiative and acknowledged [the matter] immediately thereafter,24 he is exempt and the witness that persists in his denial is liable for a sh'vuat haedut.

יד

הודה אחד וכפר אחד הכופר חייב בין שכפר בתחלה בין שכפר בסוף, כפרו שניהם כאחד וקדם האחד והודה בתוך כדי דיבור ה"ז פטור והעומד בכפירתו חייב בשבועת העדות.

15

When a person administered an oath to two pairs of witnesses who are both fit to deliver testimony and the first group denied [knowledge of the matter] and then the second pair denied knowledge of the matter, the first are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. [The rationale is that] they are relying on the testimony of the second pair and that testimony is sufficient to expropriate money. Hence the defendant would not be liable to make financial restitution because of the testimony of these [witnesses] who denied [knowledge of the matter] alone.25

If the second pair of witnesses were related to the plaintiff or to the defendant by marriage and their wives were on their deathbeds, the first pair of witnesses are also liable. For at the time the first pair made their denial, the second pair were not fit to give testimony even though they will soon be fit to give testimony when [the women] on their deathbeds die.26 If the second pair make their denial after their wives die, they are liable for a sh'vuat haedut.

טו

השביע שתי כתי עדים ושתיהן ראויות להעיד, וכפרה כת ראשונה ואחר כך כפרה כת שניה, הראשונה פטורה משבועת העדות מפני שהן סמוכין על עדות שניה ואפשר להוציא הממון בעדות הכת האחרת ונמצא זה הנתבע אינו חייב לשלם בעדות אלו שכפרו לבדה, היתה הכת השניה קרובין לתובע או לנתבע בנשותיהן והרי הן גוססות אף הראשונה חייבת, שהרי השניה בעת כפירת הראשונה לא היתה ראויה להעיד ואף על פי שבמהרה יהיו ראויין כשימותו אלו הגוססות, ואם כפרה השניה אחר שמתו נשותיהן חייבין בשבועת העדות.

16

When a person charges his witnesses with testifying on his behalf and they deny [knowledge of the matter], he administers an oath and they answer Amen,27 he administers an oath four or five times and they respond to each oath outside the court, and when they come to the court, they acknowledge [the matter] and testify, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut, as we explained.28

If [when] they came to court, they persisted in their denial, they are liable for every one of the oaths [administered] outside the court.29

טז

התובע את העדים להעיד לו וכפרו והשביען וענו אמן והשביען ארבע וחמש פעמים והן עונין אחר כל שבועה ושבועה חוץ לבית דין וכשבאו לבית דין הודו והעידו הרי אלו פטורין משבועת העדות כמו שבארנו, ואם באו לבית דין ועמדו בכפירתן חייבין על כל אחת ואחת מאותן השבועות שחוץ לבית דין.

17

When does the above30 apply? When they answered Amen. If, however, they did not answer Amen, but [merely] denied [knowledge of the matter] after every oath, they are not liable unless the oath is administered in court, as we explained.31 [The rationale is that] they did not utter the oath themselves or answer Amen.

יז

במה דברים אמורים בשענו אמן אבל אם לא ענו אמן אלא כפרו על כל שבועה ושבועה הואיל ולא הוציאו שבועה מפיהם ולא ענו אמן הרי אלו פטורין עד שישביעם בבית דין ויכפרו בו שם כמו שבארנו. 35

18

If [the plaintiff] administered an oath to [the witnesses] in court and they denied [knowledge of the matter] and then he administered an oath again four or five times and they deny [knowledge of the matter] each time, they are liable only once for a sh'vuat haedut.32 [This applies whether the oath was administered] in court or outside the court and even if they answered Amen or took the oath on their initiative time after time. [The rationale is that] after they denied [knowledge of the matter] in court, were they to retract and admit [knowledge of it], their testimony would no longer be effective.33

יח

השביען בבית דין וכפרו וחזר והשביען ארבע וחמש פעמים והן כופרין על כל אחת ואחת בין חוץ לבית דין בין בפני בית דין ואפילו ענו אמן או נשבעו מפי עצמן פעם אחר פעם אינן חייבין משום שבועת העדות אלא אחת מפני שאחר שכפרו בבית דין אם חזרו והודו אין עדותן מועלת כלום.

19

It can thus be derived that all the oaths that they take after denying [knowledge of the matter] in court involve a denial of testimony that would not obligate [the defendant] financially. [In that instance, the witnesses] are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut, but they are liable for a sh'vuat bitui, as we explained.34

יט

נמצאת למד שכל השבועות שנשבעו אחר שכפרו בבית דין הן על כפירת עדות שאינה מחייבת ממון שהן פטורין עליה משבועת העדות וחייבין בשבועת ביטוי כמו שבארנו.

Footnotes
1.

Relatives are also among these unacceptable as witnesses. See Hilchot Edut from ch. 9 onward for a detailed discussion of which witnesses are not acceptable.

2.

See the gloss of the Kessef Mishneh to Hilchot Melachim 3:7) which explains that since we are required to hold the king in awe, he is not allowed to testify. See also Hilchot Edut 11:9.

3.

In which instance, their testimony would not be effective in cases of monetary law.

4.

It would seem that according to the Rambam, they are liable for a sh'vuat bitui. The same law applies with regard to the subsequent halachot. See Chapter 9, Halachah 14.

5.

Since their testimony is not effective, they are not liable.

6.

Making such a statement does not create a binding financial obligation (Sh'vuot 35a).

7.

I.e., were his mother to have undergone either divorce or chalitzah, he would be disqualified from the priesthood.

8.

The son is liable for execution for wounding his father (Hilchot Mamrim 5:5), the kindler is liable for desecrating the Sabbath, and the seducer or rapist for adultery.

9.

Hilchot Na'arah Betulah 1:13 explains that this concept is derived from the exegesis of Exodus 21:22.

10.

As stated in Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 1:2, one witness does not make one liable financially, but it does require an oath. There are times when this requirement will also lead to financial payment, for the defendant may chose to pay rather than to take the oath. Nevertheless, since the matter depends on the defendant's choice and not the witness's testimony, he is not liable for a sh'vuat haedut. See Chapter 8, Halachah 1. Nevertheless, as stated in Halachot 8-10 of this chapter, when the testimony of one witness does create an obligation for financial payment, the witness is liable for a sh'vuat haedut.

11.

For a woman who commits adultery forfeits all the privileges granted her in her ketubah (ante nuptial agreement). See Hilchot Ishut 24:6.

Generally, a person who is guilty of a transgression that involves capital punishment is not held liable for any financial responsibility. This case, however, is an exception, because the woman is not paying anything. It is just that her conduct voids her husband's obligation to pay her.

12.

In the era of the Temple, when a man suspected his wife of committing adultery, he would warn her not to enter into privacy with the suspect. Two witnesses had to observe that warning being given. If she in fact entered into privacy with him afterwards as verified by two witnesses, she would have to drink the special sotah waters. If she had indeed committed adultery, the water would cause internal hemorrhaging and she would die. If she was innocent, she would be granted blessings. Here we are speaking of the husband charging either of these two pairs of witnesses to testify.

13.

See Hilchot Sotah 2:1.

14.

Hilchot Sotah 1:14. Since there are witnesses who testify that she received a warning and that she entered into privacy with the man who was singled out, there is basis to assume that she committed adultery with him. Hence the testimony of one witness is sufficient.

15.

See Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 2:1 that mentions the individuals placed in this category: those who took false oaths in the past and those disqualified from testifying because of transgressions they performed.

16.

Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 2:4.

17.

See Hilchot Gerushin 12:15 which states that our Sages were lenient and accepted the testimony of only one witness in order to allow a woman to remarry. And since they allowed her to remarry on that basis, they also allowed her to collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.

18.

I.e., she took possession of movable property during the lifetime of her husband and after his death, sought to collect the money due her by virtue of her ketubah from it. Otherwise, the moveable property left by her husband is not under lien to his obligations and she must expropriate his landed property. This applies according to the ruling of the Talmud. At present, however, our Rabbis have ordained that a person's movable property is on lien to all of his debts (Radbaz; see Hilchot Ishut 16:8).

19.

Chapter 9, Halachah 3. This ruling also applies to the situation described in Halachah 11.

20.

The term the Rambam uses has a specific halachic meaning: the time it takes to say: "Shalom Elecha Rabbi, as stated in Chapter 2, Halachah 17.

21.

More specifically, an adjustable guilt offering, as stated in Chapter 1, Halachah 12.

22.

Since the first witness denied knowledge of the matter, the testimony of the second witness will not be effective, for he is only one witness.

23.

He is liable, for had he testified, his testimony would have obligated the defendant.

24.

I.e., within the time period, toch k'dei dibbur, mentioned above. Even if he completed his own statements, his colleague spoke, and then he made the denial, he is exempt. See Chapter 2, Halachah 18.

25.

And hence they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut as stated in Chapter 9, Halachah 1.

26.

As long as a person is alive, he or she is considered as alive with regard to all the halachic ramifications of that state.

This and the following clause apply when the witnesses observed the testimony before they married the women in question. Otherwise, their testimony will not be acceptable, for they must be fit to testify both at the time they witness the testimony and at the time they deliver it in court.

27.

This constitutes acceptance of the oath. If, however, they remain silent outside the court, they are not considered to have accepted the oath.

28.

As stated in Chapter 9, Halachah 2, for witnesses to be liable, they must make their denial in court.

They are, however, liable for a sh'vuat bitui for every oath they accepted outside the court (Radbaz).

29.

For the same denial applies to all of them. Since they never denied the matter in court, each denial they make is still significant (in contrast to the instance mentioned in Halachah 18).

30.

That they are liable for an oath administered outside the court.

31.

Chapter 9, Halachot 1, 10.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam concerning this issue, stating that he has made a great error in interpreting the difference of opinion between Rabbi Meir and the Sages mentioned in Sh'vuot 30b. The Ra'avad maintains that their difference of opinion concerns only whether the denial of knowledge of the matter must be made in the presence of the court or outside of it. Both, however, agree that an oath is significant, whether made in the presence of the court or outside of it. The Rambam, however, maintains that since the witnesses did not take the oath themselves or respond to it, they are not liable. It is only when the oath is administered in court that the oath is significant even though the witnesses do not respond to it.

32.

They are, however, liable for a sh'vuat bitui as stated in the following halachah.

33.

As stated in Hilchot Edut 3:5, once witnesses testify in court, they cannot change that testimony. Since their testimony would no longer have an effect, they are not liable for a sh'vuat haedut.

34.

Chapter 9, Halachah 14. This also applies to all the other instances in this chapter where it was stated that the witnesses were not liable for a sh'vuat haedut.

35.
במה דברים אמורים בשענו אמן וכו'. א"א הא לא כר"מ ולא כרבנן וטעות גדולה נכנסה בו, ודע דר"מ ורבנן בשבועת העדות ושבועת הפקדון מודו דשבועה גופה אפילו היתה חוך /חוץ/ לב"ד חייב ולא פליגי אלא בכפירתם דר"מ סבר שבועת העדות מפי עצמן אפילו כפרו חוץ לב"ד חייבין ואע"פ שהודו בבית דין מ"מ מפקדון גמרינן לה ודון מינה ומינה ורבנן סברי כפירה בב"ד בעינן דון מינה ואוקי באתרה ובשבועת הפקדון סבר ר' מאיר מפי אחרים בעינן כפירה בב"ד דומיא דעדות ואם כפר חוץ לב"ד והודה בב"ד פטור ורבנן סברי מפי אחרים כיון דכפר חייב.

Shvuot - Chapter 11

1

Just as there is a negative commandment forbidding an oath taken in vain and a false oath,1 so, too, there is a positive commandment for a person who is obligated to take an oath in court2 to take that oath in God's name,3 as [Deuteronomy 6:13] states: "And you shall take an oath in His name." This is a positive commandment.4 For taking an oath in His great and holy name is one of the paths of His service. It is a great measure of glorification and sanctification to take an oath in God's name.5

א

כשם ששבועת שוא ושקר בלא תעשה, כך מצות עשה שישבע מי שנתחייב שבועה בבית דין בשם שנאמר ובשמו תשבע זו מצות עשה, שהשבועה בשמו הגדול והקדוש מדרכי העבודה היא והדור וקדוש גדול הוא להשבע בשמו.

2

It is forbidden to take an oath on any other matter together with God's name.6 Whoever combines another matter with the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, in an oath will be uprooted from this world.7 For there is no one who is fit to give honor by taking an oath in his name except the [Absolute] One, blessed be He.

ב

ואסור להשבע בדבר אחר עם שמו, וכל המשתף דבר אחר עם שם הקדוש ברוך הוא בשבועה נעקר מן העולם, שאין שם מי שראוי לחלוק לו כבוד שנשבעין בשמו אלא האחד ברוך הוא.

3

It is permitted for a person to take an oath to fulfill a mitzvah in order to encourage himself [toward its performance]. Although he is under oath [to observe] it from Mount Sinai [onward],8 [he may take an oath, as implied by Psalms 119:106]: "I took an oath and I will uphold it - to observe Your righteous judgments."9

ג

ומותר לאדם להשבע על המצוה לעשותה כדי לזרז את עצמו ואע"פ שהוא מושבע עליה מהר סיני שנאמר נשבעתי ואקיימה לשמור משפטי צדקך.

4

The oath which the judges administer to individuals who are obligated to take an oath is called: "The oath of the judges." [This applies whether the person] is liable for an oath according to Scriptural Law or according to Rabbinic Law.

ד

שבועה זו שמשביעין הדיינים למי שנתחייב שבועה היא הנקראת שבועת הדיינין, בין שהיה חייב בשבועה זו מן התורה בין שהיה חייב בה מדברי סופרים.

5

There are three types of oaths for which one is obligated according to Scriptural Law:

a) A claim involving movable property10 was lodged against a person by a colleague. He admitted liability for a portion and denied liability for a portion.11

b) [The defendant] denied liability for all the movable property, but one witness testifies against him, contradicting his statements.12

These two oaths come in response to a definite claim and a denial.13

c) When a watchman claims that the article entrusted to him was lost, stolen, died, or the like, he is required to take an oath, because of the doubt, for the owner of the entrusted article does not know if the watchman is making a true claim or not.14 This oath is of Scriptural origin, as [Exodus 22:10] states: "The oath of God will be between them." 15

ה

שלשה מיני שבועות הן שחייבין בהן מן התורה, ואלו הן: מי שטענו חבירו מטלטלין והודה במקצתן וכפר במקצתן, ומי שכפר בכל המטלטלין שטענו ועד אחד מעיד עליו ומכחישו הרי אלו שתי שבועות על ידי טענת ודאי וכפירה, וכן שומר שטוען שאבד דבר שהפקידו אצלו או נגנב או מת וכיוצא בזה הרי זה נשבע מספק, שאין בעל הפקדון יודע אם אמת טוען זה השומר או שקר, והוא נשבע מן התורה שנאמר שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם.

6

All oaths which the judges require aside from these three are of Rabbinic origin. They are also called "the oath of the judges." Within these oaths of Rabbinic origin, there are also two categories:

a) Oaths administered because of a definite claim and denial: e.g., the oath [taken by] a hired worker,16 [the oath taken by] one who impugns his promissory note,17 and the like.18

b) Oaths taken when [the plaintiff] has a claim of a doubtful nature, e.g., the oaths taken by partners, sharecroppers, and the like.19

In the laws of financial matters, the obligation of all these types of oaths and the associated laws will be explained.

ו

כל שבועה שמשביעין אותה הדיינין חוץ משלשה מיני שבועות אלו הרי הוא מדברי סופרים וגם היא הנקראת שבועת הדיינין, וגם שבועות אלו מדבריהם שני מיני שבועות הן, יש מהן שבועות על ידי טענת ודאי וכפירה כגון שבועת שכיר ופוגם שטרו וכיוצא בהן, ויש מהן שבועות בטענת ספק כגון שבועת השותפין והאריסין וכיוצא בהן, ובדיני ממונות יתבאר חיוב כל אחת ואחת מאלו השבועות ודיניהם.

7

There is also another oath which was ordained by the Sages of the Talmud.20 It is called a sh'vuat heset.21 Although it is administered by the court in the present era. It is not referred to by the term "the oath of the judges."

ז

ויש שם שבועה אחרת והיא תקנת חכמי הגמרא והיא הנקראת שבועת הסת, ואע"פ שבית דין משביעין אותה [היום] אינה נקראת שבועת הדיינין.

8

An oath of the judges, whether of Scriptural or Rabbinic origin, whether stemming from a definite or an indefinite claim is [administered in] the following [manner]: The person taking the oath holds a Torah scroll22 in his arm.23 He must stand24 and take the oath or recite a curse using God's name or one of the terms used to describe Him. [Either] he pronounces the oath himself or it is pronounced by the judges. My masters25 ruled that an oath of the judges is administered only in Lashon HaKodesh.26

ח

ושבועת הדיינין בין שהיתה של תורה או של דברי סופרים בין על טענת ודאי בין על טענת ספק כך היא, הנשבע אוחז ספר תורה בזרועו והוא עומד ונשבע בשם או בכינוי בשבועה או באלה מפיו או מפי הדיינין, והורו רבותי שאין משביעין שבועת הדיינין אלא בלשון הקדש.

9

What is meant by an oath pronounced by [the defendant] himself? For example, he says: "I am taking an oath by God, the Lord of Israel...",27 "...by He whose name is graciousness...", "...by He whose name is mercy that I am not liable to this person at all." Similarly, if he says: "May one28 be cursed to God..." or "...cursed to He whose name is graciousness if I owes anything to that person."

ט

כיצד מפיו, כגון שיאמר הריני נשבע בה' אלהי ישראל או במי ששמו חנון או במי ששמו רחום שאיני חייב לזה כלום, וכן אם אמר הרי הוא ארור לה' או ארור למי ששמו חנון אם יש לזה אצלי כלום.

10

What is meant by an oath pronounced by the judges? For example, they tell him: We are administering an oath to you by God, the Lord of Israel...", "...by He whose name is graciousness that you are not liable to this person at all" and [the defendant] answers Amen.29 Or they say: "May so-and-so be cursed to God..." or "...cursed to He whose name is graciousness if he owes money to that person and does not acknowledge the debt" and [the defendant] answers Amen. This is the oath of the judges.

י

וכיצד מפי הדיינין כגון שאמרו לו משביעין אנו אותך בה' אלהי ישראל או במי ששמו חנון שאין לזה בידך כלום והוא עונה אמן, או שאמרו הרי פלוני בן פלוני ארור לה' אלהי ישראל או למי ששמו חנון אם יש לפלוני אצלו ממון ולא יודה לו והוא עונה אמן זו היא שבועת הדיינין.

11

When the judges administer an oath without the defendant holding a [sacred] article in his hand, they have made an error. He must take the oath again while holding a Torah scroll in his hand.30 If he was holding tefillin when they administered the oath to him, he is not required to take the oath again. For he held [an article equivalent to] the Torah in his hand,31 for they are like a scroll. If they administered the oath while [the defendant] was sitting, he does not have to take the oath again.

יא

הדיינין שהשביעו בלא נקיטת חפץ בידו הרי אלו טועים, וחוזר ונשבע וספר תורה בידו, ואם אחז תפילין בידו והשביעוהו אינו חוזר ונשבע שהרי אחז תורה בידו וכמו ספר הן, השביעוהו מיושב אינו חוזר ונשבע.

12

At the outset, an oath should be administered to a Torah scholar while seated and while holding tefillin.32 He need not hold a Torah scroll. Holding tefillin in his hand [fulfills the requirement of] a sacred article. He takes an oath in Lashon HaKodesh, as we explained.33

יב

תלמיד חכם לכתחילה משביעין אותו מיושב ותפילין בידו ואינו צריך ליטול ספר תורה אלא תפילין בכפו חפץ הוא ונשבע בלשון הקדש כמו שבארנו.

13

There is no difference between a sh'vuat heset and an oath of the judges except that [the latter] must be taken [while] holding a sacred article and a person who takes a sh'vuat heset does not hold a Torah scroll. Instead, an oath is administered to him by God's name or using one of the terms used to describe Him,34 either an oath or a curse which he utters or which the court states, as is the practice with regard to the oath of the judges. It has already become the universal custom for the synagogue attendant or another person to hold a Torah scroll while a sh'vuat heset is being administered to cast fear [into the heart of the defendant].

יג

אין בין שבועת הסת לשבועת הדיינין אלא נקיטת חפץ, שאין הנשבע שבועת הסת אוחז ספר תורה אלא משביעין אותו בשם או בכנוי בשבועה או באלה מפיו או מפי בית דין כמו שבועת הדיינין, וכבר נהגו הכל להיות ספר תורה ביד חזן הכנסת או שאר העם בעת שמשביעין שבועת הסת כדי לאיים עליו. 55

14

The judges administer the oath to the person taking it in any language that he understands.35 The Geonim ruled in this manner. My masters, however, ruled that an oath should be administered only in Lashon HaKodesh. This ruling should not be relied upon.36

Although it has become customary to administer oaths in Lashon HaKodesh, the person taking the oath should be familiarized with the matter until he understands the wording of the oath. [The rationale is that] the oath of the judges is a sh'vuat hapikadon itself.37 People have even adopted the custom of administering a sh'vuat heset in Lashon HaKodesh.38

יד

הדיינין שהשביעו את הנשבע בכל לשון שהוא מכיר הרי זו כמצותה וכן הורו הגאונים, אבל רבותינו הורו שאין משביעים אלא בלשון הקדש, ואין ראוי לסמוך על הוראה זו, ואף על פי שנהגו בכל בתי דינין להשבע בלשון הקדש צריך להודיע את הנשבע עד שיהא מכיר לשון השבועה, ששבועת הדיינין היא שבועת הפקדון בעצמה, ואף שבועת הסת נהגו כל העם להשביע אותה בלשון הקדש.

15

Everyone who is obligated to take an oath of the judges that comes about because of a definite claim and denial,39 whether it is of Scriptural or Rabbinic origin, is subjected to a admonition, as will be explained.40 Everyone who is obligated to take an oath, whether of Scriptural or Rabbinic origin, because of a doubtful claim need not be subjected to an admonition.41

טו

כל מי שיתחייב שבועת הדיינין שהיא על ידי טענת ודאי וכפירה בין שהיתה מדברי תורה בין שהיתה מדבריהם מאיימין עליו כמו שיתבאר, וכל מי שיתחייב בה בטענת ספק בין מן התורה בין מדבריהם אינו צריך איום.

16

How is an admonition administered to the person taking the oath? We tell him: Know that the entire world trembled at the time the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moses [Exodus 20:7]: "Do not take the name of God, your Lord, in vain." For with regard to all the transgressions in the Torah, as [Exodus 34:7] states: "And He shall cleanse." And with regard to [a false oath,] as [Exodus 20:7] states: "[God] will not cleanse one who takes His name in vain."42

With regard to all the transgressions in the Torah, retribution is exacted from him [alone], but with regard to [a false oath], retribution is exacted from him and from his family who conceal the matter for him.43 Moreover, this causes retribution to be exacted from "the enemies of the Jews,"44 for the entire Jewish people are responsible for each other,45 for [Hoshea 4:2-3] states: "Swearing, denying, murdering.... Therefore the land will mourn and all who inhabit it will be forlorn."

With regard to all the transgressions in the Torah, [retribution] is suspended for two or three generations if he possesses merit, but with regard to [a false oath], retribution is exacted immediately, as [Zechariah 5:4] states: 'I have let loose [the curse],' declares God, the Lord of Hosts, 'It will come into the house of the thief and the house of he who took an oath in My name falsely.'

"I have let loose" implies immediately. "It will come into the house of the thief" - this refers to deceiving people, i.e. one who does not have money owed to him by a colleague and yet lodges a claim against him to require him to take an oath. "He who took an oath in My name falsely" - this should be interpreted literally. [The verse continues:] "It shall destroy it, its wood, and its stones." Entities that cannot be destroyed by fire and water will be destroyed by a false oath.

טז

וכיצד מאיימין על הנשבע, אומרין לו הוי יודע שכל העולם כולו נזדעזע בשעה שאמר הקב"ה למשה לא תשא את שם ה' אלהיך לשוא, וכל עבירות שבתורה נאמר בהן ונקה וכאן נאמר לא ינקה, כל עבירות שבתורה נפרעין ממנו וכאן ממנו וממשפחתו שמחפין על זה, ולא עוד אלא גורם להפרע משונאיהם של ישראל שכל ישראל ערבין זה בזה שנאמר אלה וכחש ורצוח וגו' וכתוב אחריו על כן תאבל הארץ ואמלל כל יושב בה, כל עבירות שבתורה תולין לו שנים ושלשה דורות אם יש לו זכות וכאן נפרעין מיד שנאמר הוצאתיה נאם ה' צבאות ובאה אל בית הגנב ואל בית הנשבע בשמי לשקר, הוצאתיה מיד, ובאה אל בית הגנב זה הגונב דעת הבריות ואין לו ממון על חבירו וטוענו בחנם ומשביעו, אל בית הנשבע בשמי לשקר כמשמעו, וכלתו ואת עציו ואת אבניו דברים שאין אש ומים מכלין אותן שבועת שקר מכלה אותן.

17

The concept [conveyed] by this admonition is told [to the person taking the oath] entirely in a language that they understand, so that they will understand the matter and the sinner will repent and correct [is conduct].

If he says: "I am not taking the oath," he is released,46 but he must pay what his colleague demands. Similarly, if the plaintiff says: "I will not subject him to an oath and I release him," they may depart.47

יז

וענין האיום הזה כלו בלשון שהן מכירין אומרים להם כדי שיבינו בדברים ויחזור החוטא למוטב, אמר איני נשבע פוטרין אותו ונותן מה שטענו חבירו, וכן אם אמר הטוען איני משביעו ופטרו הולכין להן.

18

If [the defendant] says: "I will take the oath," and [the plaintiff] persists in the claim, the people there say to each other: "Turn away from the tents of these wicked men."48

[The court] tell [the defendant]: "We are not administering the oath to you according to your understanding, but according to our understanding and the understanding of the court."49

יח

אמר הריני נשבע וחבירו תובע, העומדים שם אומרים זה לזה סורו נא מעל אהלי האנשים הרשעים וגו', ואומרין לו לא על דעתך אנו משביעין אותך אלא על דעתנו ועל דעת בית דין.

19

Although this admonition is not administered for an oath taken because of a claim involving a doubt or a sh'vuat heset,50 the judges should implore the litigants exceedingly [before administering these oaths] perhaps they will retract and so there will be no oaths taken at all.51

יט

אע"פ שאין מאיימין איום זה בשבועת טענת ספק כמו שבארנו ולא בשבועת הסת, צריכין הדיינין לפצור בבעלי דינין אולי יחזרו בהן עד שלא תהיה שם שבועה כלל.

20

It is a clear and that anyone who takes an oath of the judges or a sh'vuat heset falsely, is liable for taking a [false] sh'vuat hapikadon, the details of which have already been explained.52 Even though he willfully [took the false oath], he does not receive lashes. [Instead,] he is obligated to pay what he owes plus an additional fifth. [The fifth] is one fourth of the principal, so that the principal and the fifth are equal to five.53 And he must bring a guilt offering if the oath was taken in court, as we explained.54

כ

דבר ברור וגלוי שכל הנשבע שבועת הדיינין או שבועת הסת בשקר שיהא חייב משום שבועת הפקדון שכבר נתבארו משפטיה ואינו לוקה ואע"פ שהוא מזיד ונתחייב לשלם מה שנשבע עליו בתוספת חומש שהוא רביע הקרן עד שיהיה הוא וחומשו חמשה, ומביא קרבן אשם אם יש שם בית (דין) כמו שבארנו. 56.

Footnotes
1.

See Chapter 1, Halachot 7-8.

2.

See Halachah 5 which mentions the oaths required by the court.

3.

See Halachot 8-9.

4.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 7) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 435) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Note the Hasagot of the Ramban to Sefer HaMitzvot and the Ra'avad' objections at the beginning of the Mishneh Torah which differ and argue that this should not be considered as a positive commandment. See also Hilchot Nedarim 1:4 which states that there is a positive Scriptural commandment for a person to carry out an oath or vow he took.

5.

For this reveals the reverence and awe in which God's name is held.

6.

For that implies drawing a certain equation between that other entity and God.

7.

See the Radbaz who explains why the expression: "As God lives and by the life of your soul" (II Kings 2:4, 4:30) is not a contradiction of this principle.

8.

When the Jewish people were compelled by God to accept the Torah by oath. One might think that we would apply the principle (see Chapter 5, Halachah 11, and notes) that one oath does not take effect when another is already in effect. Hence, taking the oath would be taking God's name in vain. This is not so as the Rambam continues to explain.

9.

Thus if David - a paradigm of pious conduct - could take an oath for this purpose, so can others.

10.

In contrast to landed property, servants, and promissory notes (Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 5:1).

11.

This situation is referred to by our Sages with the term modeh bimiktzat: "one who admits a portion." See Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 1:1.

12.

"Whenever [the testimony of] two [witnesses] would require him to make financial restitution, [the testimony of] one [witness] obligates him to take an oath" (Ibid.).

13.

If, however, the plaintiff suspects the defendant is liable, but is unsure of his claim, he cannot require the defendant to take an oath (ibid.:7). Similarly, if the defendant is unsure whether he is liable or not, he may not take a Scriptural oath to absolve himself of responsibility.

The Rambam's statements here are significant in another context. There is a difference of opinion among the Rabbis if a plaintiff who makes a claim that is supported by the testimony of one witness must be certain of the veracity of the claim himself or whether he can be doubtful, but rely on the testimony of the witness. The Maggid Mishneh (in his gloss to Hilchot Gezelah 4:17 and the Kessef Mishneh (in his gloss to Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 3:6) maintain that the Rambam follows the latter view. Here, however, it appears otherwise.

14.

See ibid.:2; Hilchot Sechirut 1:2; 2:8.

15.

The Ma'aseh Rokeach states that the word Shema שמע serves as an acronym for the names of these three oaths: Shomrim, Modeh bimitzat eid echad, שומרים, מודה במקצת, עד אחד

16.

See Hilchot Sechirut 11:6 which explains that when an employer denies owing a worker his wage, the worker may take an oath and collect his due.

17.

See Hilchot Malveh V'Loveh 14:1.

18.

For example, Sh'vuot 44b mentions several other instances when such an oath is required of a defendant: a person who claims that property was stolen from him and their is substantial circumstantial evidence corroborating his claim (see Hilchot Gezeilah 4:2), a storekeeper who disputes a client's claims with regard to payment (Hilchot Mechirah 20:8).

19.

See Hilchot Shluchim V'Shutafim 9:1.

20.

I.e., in contrast to the oaths mentioned in the previous halachah which were established by the Sages of the Mishnah. Sh'vuot 40b states that this oath was ordained by Rav Nachman, one of the leading Sages in the midst of the era of the Gemara. See Hilchot To'en V'Nitan 1:3.

A defendant is required to take this oath whenever he denies entirely a claim registered against him by a plaintiff.

21.

The Seifer Meirat Einayim 75:16 interprets the term heset as meaning "placed upon," i.e., it is an oath which our Sages placed upon a person. Others interpret it as relating to the root meisit, meaning "entice." The purpose of this oath is to entice a defendant to admit an obligation.

22.

This will impress him with the seriousness of the matter.

23.

The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 87:15) quotes opinions stating that the defendant should not hold the scroll. Instead, it should be placed before him and he should place his hand on it.

24.

I.e., he may not sit. Note, however, Halachot 11-12.

25.

This term is used to refer to Rav Yosef Migash, the Rambam's teacher, and Rav Yitzchak Alfasi, Rav Yosef's teacher.

26.

"The Holy Tongue," i.e., the Hebrew of the Tanach and the Mishnah. With regard to this ruling, see Halachah 14.

27.

The Hagahot Maimoniot quote Rashi (Sh'vuot 38b) who states that it has become customary not to administer oaths using God's name, for the awesomeness of the punishment for taking His name in vain would lay waste to the world. This principle is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 87:19).

28.

He is referring to himself.

29.

See Chapter 2, Halachah 1.

30.

For this is equivalent to a judge making an error in a law explicitly stated in the Mishnah, in which instance the law is that the judgment is revoked (Sh'vuot 38b).

The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 87:15) quoutes an opinion that states that a Torah scroll is not required. Any sacred text with God's name is sufficient. Similarly, in one of the Rambam's responsum, he writes that a Chumash is sufficient.

31.

For Exodus 12:9 says of tefillin: "So that the Torah of God will be in your mouth."

32.

This is a token of respect for him. See Sh'vuot 38b.

The Siftei Cohen 87:41 quotes Rav Hai Gaon who states that the term Torah scholar has been given many definitions, but that employed today is "anyone who puts on tefillin." On this basis, the Siftei Cohen writes that in the present day, there is no difference between Torah scholars and ordinary individuals.

33.

See Halachah 8.

34.

The Ra'avad states that it is not customary to administer a sh'vuat hesit with God's name in the present age, for we fear that people will take false oaths. Hence to reduce the punishment that might be incurred, God's name is not mentioned. To compensate for that omission, the court should employ various techniques to impress the person taking the oath with the seriousness of the matter. As the Radbaz states, his argument with the Rambam appears to be practical, but not theoretical. In the era of the Talmud, the Rambam's ruling would be followed.

Other authorities do not accept the Rambam's view even theoretically. They maintain that even in the era of the Talmud, a sh'vuat heset was not administered with God's name. The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 87:18) mentions the Rambam's view, but follows that of the other authorities.

35.

I.e., even languages other than Lashon HaKodesh.

36.

For the Sh'vuot 38b, 39a and the Tosefta, Sotah 7:1 states that an oath can be administered in any language.

37.

And a person is liable for a sh'vuat hapikadon only if he understands what he is saying, as stated in Chapter 7, Halachah 7.

38.

See Halachah 20.

39.

See Halachah 6.

40.

In the following two halachot.

41.

For the prooftext from Zechariah cited in the admonition is speaking about a definite claim. See also Halachah 19.

42.

See also Chapter 12, Halachah 1; Hilchot Teshuvah 1:2.

43.

Sh'vuot 39a derives this concept from Ecclesiates 5:5 which states: "Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin." "Your mouth" refers to taking a false oath and "your flesh" to one's family."

44.

Here the intent is the Jewish people themselves. Our Sages (see Sukkah 29a) use this expression as a euphemism.

45.

The Sefer Meirat Einayim 87:58 notes that this concept applies, not only with regard to a false oath, but to all the transgressions mentioned in the Torah. Nevertheless, there is a stringent aspect that applies with regard to a false oath, for with regard to other transgressions, the interrelation affects one when he has the opportunity to rebuke the transgressor and with regard to a false oath, it applies even when one does not have such an opportunity.

46.

The Sefer Meirat Einayim 87:60 interprets this as meaning that he is sent away from the court. For once he leaves the court, he cannot change his mind and decide to take the oath.

47.

Once the plaintiff has retracted his request for the defendant to take the oath, he is considered to have waived his claim and can no longer prosecute it again. See Hilchot Mechirah 5:1.

48.

This malediction refers to the plaintiff as well. For as Sh'vuot 39b states, the negative repercussions of taking the oath affect them both. The Radbaz explains that the plaintiff shares in the responsibility, for he should have been more careful and not entered into a business arrangement without having the matter observed by witnesses. And if the oath is true, he should have been more careful with his accounts, so as not to require God's name to have been employed for such matters.

The Sefer Meirat Einayim 87:61 explains that when the plaintiff sees that the defendant is prepared to take a false oath, he should have offered a compromise rather than continue to pressure him and thus cause God's name to be taken in vain.

49.

As stated in Chapter 2, Halachah 15-16, this measure is employed so that later, the defendant will not try to absolve himself saying: "I had this-and-this intent in my heart when taking the oath." Since the oath is being administered to him according to the understanding of others, it is their interpretation that is upheld. See Sh'vuot 29a and Nedarim 25a which speak of a defendant employing deception while taking an oath.

50.

Although he does not dispute the Rambam's ruling, the Radbaz questions why an admonition is not administered in these instances. The Meiri and the Sefer Meirat Einayim 87:61 explain that when the plaintiff is making a definite claim, it is one person's word against the other's. Thus there is reason to think that the defendant's oath is false and to prevent him from doing so, we issue this warning. When, however, an oath is taken because of a doubt, the defendant is not being challenged. Hence, there is less reason to suspect that he would take a false oath.

51.

For in all situations, it is preferable that an oath not be taken. For this reason, courts have adopted the policy of trying to negotiate compromises in all litigation (Radbaz).

52.

See Chapters 7 and 8.

53.

I.e., it is one fifth of the new total and not one fifth of the original principal.

54.

Chapter 1, Halachah 9.

The Ra'avad writes that at present since God's name is not mentioned in the oath administered by the judges, there is no liability for a guilt offering or to pay the additional fifth.

55.
אין בין שבועת היסת לשבועת הדיינין אלא נקיטת חפץ וכו' אלא משביעין אותו בשם או בכינוי. א"א שמעתי שתקנו הגאונים שאין משביעין עכשיו לא בשם ולא בכנוי כדי שלא יהא העולם חרב על ידי החוטאים שרבו אלא שמחרימין אותו ומקללים אותו ומחרימין עליו בשופרות וכבוי נרות ומטות כפויות לאיים עליו שאם יחטא לעצמו יחטא.
56.
ואע"פ שהוא מזיד וכו'. א"א אחר שתיקנו הגאונים שאין בשבועתנו לא שם ולא כנוי אין בהם לא חומש ולא אשם שאינן אלא ענין קללות לחוטא.

Shvuot - Chapter 12

1

Although a person who took a false oath or an oath in vain is given lashes,1 and similarly, one who takes a [false] sh'vuat haedut or sh'vuat hapikadon brings a sacrifice,2 they do not receive complete atonement for the sin of taking a [false] oath, as [Exodus 20:7] states: "God will not cleanse [one who takes His name in vain]." He will not be absolved from the judgment of heaven until he receives retribution for his desecration of [His] great name, as [Leviticus 19:12] states: "[You shall not take a false oath in My name, for] you will desecrate the name of Your God." Therefore a person must be very careful with regard to this sin, more than with regard all other sins.3

א

אף על פי שלוקה הנשבע לשוא או לשקר וכן הנשבע שבועת העדות או שבועת הפקדון מביא קרבן, אין מתכפר להן עון השבועה כלו שנאמר לא ינקה ה' אין לזה נקיון מדין שמים עד שיתפרע ממנו על השם הגדול שחלל, שנאמר וחללת את שם ה' אלהיך אני ה', לפיכך צריך אדם להזהר מעון זה יותר מכל העבירות. 38

2

This sin is considered one of the severe transgressions, as explained in Hilchot Teshuvah.4 Although it does not involve kerait or execution by the court, it involves the desecration of [God's] holy name which is more severe than all other sins.

ב

עון זה מן החמורות הוא כמו שבארנו בהלכות תשובה, אף על פי שאין בו לא כרת ולא מיתת בית דין יש בו חלול השם המקודש שהוא גדול מכל העונות.

3

When a person takes an oath by the heaven and earth, by the sun, or the like, this is not an oath,5 even though his intent is He who created them. Similarly, one who takes an oath by one of the prophets or by one of the texts of the Holy Scriptures, this is not an oath, even if his intent is He who sent the prophet or gave the commandments in this text.6

Although these are not oaths, those who take them are subjected to a severe warning and we teach the people not to act frivolously in this manner. [Indeed,] we make it look as if these are oaths and give them an opening [to ask for their absolution] and absolve them.7

ג

מי שנשבע בשמים ובארץ ובשמש וכיוצא בהן אע"פ שאין כוונתו אלא למי שבראם אין זו שבועה, וכן הנשבע בנביא מן הנביאים או בכתב מכתבי הקדש אע"פ שאין כוונתו אלא למי ששלח נביא זה או למי שצוה בכתב זה אין זו שבועה, ואע"פ שאין אלו שבועות מאיימין עליהן ומלמדין את העם שלא ינהגו קלות ראש בכך ומראין בעיניהם שזו שבועה, ופותחין להם פתח ומתירין להם. 39

4

When does the above apply? With regard to other holy texts. [Different rules apply,] however, when one takes an oath by the Torah.8 If one takes an oath by what is written in [the Torah],9 his intent is by the names of God [it contains].10If one takes an oath by it without any further definition, his intent is on the parchment [of the scroll] and it is not considered as an oath.11 If he took [the scroll] in his hand and took an oath by it,12 it is as if he took an oath by what was written in it and [the matter] is forbidden.13

ד

בד"א בשאר כתבי הקדש, אבל הנשבע בתורה, אם נשבע במה שכתוב בה דעתו על ההזכרות, ואם נשבע בה סתם דעתו על הגויל ואין כאן שבועה, נטלה בידו ונשבע בה הרי זה כמי שנשבע במה שכתוב בה ואסור. 40

5

[The following rules apply when] a person takes an oath by the Torah without any further definition. If he is a Torah scholar, he does not need to be released by a sage.14 If he is a common person,15 it is necessary that he asked to be released by a sage so that he will not treat oaths frivolously.16

ה

והנשבע בתורה סתם אם תלמיד חכם הוא אינו צריך שאלה לחכם, ואם עם הארץ הוא צריך שאלה לחכם כדי שלא ינהג קלות ראש בשבועות.

6

When a servant takes an oath, his master does not have to compel him [to break the oath to nullify it].17 Instead, his [status] is the same after taking the oath as it was before he did so.18 [The rationale is that] his body is not his property for that the oath he takes will be effective. With regard to oaths, [Numbers 30:3] states: "To forbid something upon one's soul." [Implied is that the verse applies to] someone whose soul is his property. It excludes a servant who is someone else's property. Thus [a servant's taking an oath] is comparable to taking an oath regarding someone else's property.19

ו

עבד שנשבע אין רבו צריך לכפותו, והרי הוא אחר שנשבע כקודם שנשבע, לפי שאין גופו קנוי לו כדי שתחול עליו שבועתו ונאמר בשבועות לאסור אסר על נפשו מי שנפשו ברשותו יצא עבד שהוא ברשות אחרים, ונמצא זה כמו שנשבע על נכסי אחר. 41

7

[Even though] minors20 understand the significance of an oath take an oath, they are not obligated [to maintain their commitment].21 [Nevertheless,] we compel them to uphold their word to train them [in the observance of mitzvot] and to impress them with fear so that they do not act frivolously with regard to oaths. If the matter concerning which they took the oath is such that a minor could not maintain without suffering injury,22 e.g., he took an oath that he would fast or that he would not eat meat for a long time, his father or his teacher should beat him and rebuke him, and create the appearance that his oath [took effect, but] was released, so that he will not be habituated to treat oaths frivolously.

ז

קטנים שנשבעו והן יודעין טעם השבועה אע"פ שאינן חייבין, כופין אותן לעמוד בדבריהן, כדי לחנכן ולאיים עליהם כדי שלא ינהגו קלות ראש בשבועות, ואם היה הדבר שנשבעו עליו דבר שאין הקטן יכול לעמוד בו אלא אם כן ניזק, כגון שנשבע שיצום או שלא יאכל בשר זמן מרובה, מכה אותו אביו או רבו וגוער בו ומראין לו שהותר שבועתו כדי שלא יהיה רגיל להקל ראש בשבועות.

8

We must be very careful with children and train them to speak words of truth without [resorting to] an oath so that they will not be habituate to swear at all times like gentiles do. This matter is tantamount to an obligation for their parents and for those who teach young children.

ח

צריך להזהר בקטנים הרבה וללמד לשונם דברי אמת בלא שבועה כדי שלא יהיו רגילים להשבע תמיד כעכו"ם, וזה הדבר כמו חובה על אבותיהם ועל מלמדי תינוקות.

9

When one hears a colleague mention God's name in vain, take a false oath in his presence, or recite a blessing that is unnecessary in which instance [his colleague] transgresses23 because he takes God's name in vain,24 as we explained in Hilchot Berachot,25 he must place him under a ban of ostracism.26If he does not, he himself should be ostracized. The ban should, however, be lifted immediately so that it will not present an obstacle to others, for they will not know that he was placed under a ban. And if one would say, "Make it known that he [is under ostracism]," the entire populace will be under ban for [people] have already habituated their tongues to iniquity27 and oaths at all times.

ט

השומע הזכרת השם מפי חבירו לשוא או שנשבע לפניו לשקר או שבירך ברכה שאינה צריכה שהוא עובר משום נושא שם ה' לשוא כמו שבארנו בהלכות ברכות הרי זה חייב לנדותו, ואם לא נדהו הוא בעצמו יהא בנדוי, וצריך להתיר אותו מיד כדי שלא יהא מכשול לאחרים שהרי אינו יודע שנדוהו, ואם תאמר יודיעו נמצאו כל העולם בנידוי שהרי למדו לשונם העוה ושבועה תמיד.

10

When does the above apply? When the person taking this oath or reciting this blessing in vain does so intentionally? If, however, he does so inadvertently or does not know that this is forbidden,28 [a listener] is not obligated to place him under a ban of ostracism. Indeed, I maintain that it is forbidden to place him under a ban of ostracism, for the Torah did not [prescribe] punishment for an inadvertent transgressor. Instead, one should caution him and warn him not to repeat [the transgression].

י

במה דברים אמורים בשהיה הנשבע הזה או המברך לבטלה מזיד, אבל אם היה שוגג ולא ידע שזה אסור אינו חייב לנדותו, ואני אומר שאסור לנדותו שלא ענש הכתוב שוגג אלא מזהירו ומתרה בו שלא יחזור.

11

It is not only a false oath that is forbidden. Instead, it is forbidden to mention even one of the names designated for God29 although one does not take an oath. For the verse [Deuteronomy 28:58] commands us, saying: "to fear the glorious and awesome name."30 Included in fearing it is not to mention it in vain.31

Therefore if because of a slip of the tongue, one mentions [God's] name in vain, he should immediately hurry to praise, glorify, and venerate it so that it will not have been mentioned [entirely] in vain. What is implied? If he mentions God's name, he should say: "Blessed be He for all eternity," "He is great and exceedingly praiseworthy,"32 or the like so that it will not have been [mentioned entirely] in vain.

יא

ולא שבועה לשוא בלבד היא שאסורה אלא אפילו להזכיר שם מן השמות המיוחדין לבטלה אסור ואע"פ שלא נשבע, שהרי הכתוב מצוה ואומר ליראה את השם הנכבד והנורא, ובכלל יראתו שלא יזכירו לבטלה, לפיכך אם טעה הלשון והוציא שם לבטלה ימהר מיד וישבח ויפאר ויהדר לו כדי שלא יזכר לבטלה, כיצד אמר ה' אומר ברוך הוא לעולם ועד או גדול הוא ומהולל מאד וכיוצא בזה כדי שלא יהא לבטלה.

12

It is permitted to approach [a sage] to have an oath released as we explained33 and there is no fault [in doing so]. [Indeed,] one who has hesitations about the matter is [showing] traces of heresy.34 Nevertheless, it is appropriate to show care in this regard. One should not respond [to a request] to release [an oath] unless it involves a matter concerning a mitzvah or a great need.35 It is of great benefit for a person never to take an oath at all.36If, however, one transgressed and took an oath, he should endure great difficulty and keep his oath,37 as [Psalms 15:4-5] states: "One who takes an oath to his own detriment and does not nullify it..., he who acts in this manner will never falter."

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

יב

אע"פ שמותר להשאל על השבועה כמו שבארנו ואין בזה דופי, ומי שלבו נוקפו בדבר זה אינו אלא שמץ מינות, אעפ"כ ראוי להזהר בדבר זה, ואין נזקקין להתיר אלא מפני דבר מצוה או מפני צורך גדול, וטובה גדולה היא לאדם שלא ישבע כלל, ואם עבר ונשבע שיצטער ויעמוד בשבועתו שנאמר נשבע להרע ולא ימיר וכתוב אחריו עושה אלה לא ימוט לעולם. 42 סליקו להו הלכות שבועות בס"ד.

Footnotes
1.

Chapter 1, Halachot 3,7.

2.

But are not subjected to lashes, Chapter 1, Halachah 8.

3.

See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:10.

The Ra'avad differs and maintains that lashes are sufficient to atone for a person's sin entirely. The Radbaz explains that the sin of taking a false oath is two dimensional, involving not only the particular transgression of taking a false oath, but also the desecration of God's name. The lashes atone for the particular transgression of the false oath, but not for the desecration of God's name. That requires more severe retribution as the Rambam explains.

4.

Hilchot Teshuvah 1:2.

5.

The Ra'avad states that although one is not liable for a sacrifice or lashes for such an oath, it is forbidden to take such an oath. At first, the Kessef Mishneh states that it is possible that this is also the Rambam's intent, but afterwards, states that the Rambam's wording implies that such statements are not considered oaths at all.

The Radbaz writes (and this understanding is borne out by one of the Rambam's responsa) that according to the Rambam, such an oath is not binding and need not be released. The Ra'avad differs and maintains that such oaths must be released and if they are false, one transgresses the prohibition against taking a false oath. See also the notes to the following halachah.

6.

See the following halachah and notes.

7.

See Chapter 6, Halachah 10; Hilchot Nedarim 2:12.

8.

The Ra'avad differs with this principle, maintaining that there is no difference between the Torah and the other books of the Holy Scriptures with regard to their fundamental holiness. Thus a person who takes an oath by the contents of any of the other books of the Bible is also liable.

The difference between these two understandings depends on whether one understands the passage from Nedarim 14b as referring to only vows (as is explicitly stated, and as is the Ra'avad's understanding) or as apply also to oaths (as the Rambam maintains). The Rama (Yoreh De'ah 212:1) quotes the Rambam's view.

9.

I.e., he states that explicitly.

10.

In which instance the person is liable for taking an oath, as stated in Chapter 2, Halachah 2.

11.

For he is not taking an oath by God's name.

12.

The Chatam Sofer (in his commentary to Nedarim 14b) states that the Rambam is referring to an instance where the person specifically picked up the Torah scroll for the purpose of taking an oath. Otherwise, even if he was holding the scroll in his hand before taking the oath, this law would not apply. Rashi understands the passage differently.

13.

For by taking the Torah scroll in his hand, the person is implying that he is considering the matter with the seriousness of an oath (Nimukei Yosef).

14.

For he knows the distinction mentioned in the previous halachah and thus understands that the oath is not effective and does not intend for it to be binding. Note, however, the Beit Yosef (Yoreh De'ah 212) who severely criticizes scholars who take an oath by the Torah, knowing that it is not effective to deceive the people to whom they are taking the oath.

15.

Who does not know the above distinction.

16.

As explained in Halachah 3.

17.

Note the contrast to the law that applies when a servant takes a Nazirite vow (Hilchot Nazirut 2:7).

18.

The Ra'avad, however, maintains that the Rambam's ruling applies only to oaths that will affect the servant's capacity to work. If that is not the case, the oath can take effect. As the Rambam writes in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Nazirut 9:1), there is a difference between vows and oaths in this regard. The Ra'avad's statement will apply with regard to vows, but not to oaths (Or Sameach).

19.

Which is not effective as stated in Nedarim 47a. See also Chapter 5, Halachah 1.

20.

Boys under 12 and girls under 11. See Hilchot Nedarim 11:1.

21.

For they are not liable for any of the Torah's commandments.

22.

The Radbaz explains that we are not speaking about a person in mortal danger, for that would apply with regard to an adult as well. Instead, the intent is aggravation or sickness.

23.

The commentaries question whether the Rambam's intent is that he has transgressed a Scriptural commandment or merely a Rabbinic one. The Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 30) states that the transgression is Scriptural in origin and the violator should be punished by lashing. This opinion is also mentioned by the Magen Avraham 215:6. From the Kessef Mishneh to Hilchot Milah 3:6, it appears that even the Rambam would consider the prohibition as Rabbinic in nature. The latter understanding is shared by many other Rishonim. Their position is - as explained by the Shulchan Aruch HaRav 215:3 - since he is reciting a blessing, his mention of God's name is not entirely frivolous.

24.

See the gloss of Rabbi Akiva Eiger who questions the Rambam's statements, based on the ruling that a person who is unsure whether or not he recited the Grace After Meals must recite the blessing again. Seemingly, the recitation of that blessing would be problematic, because there is a doubt whether or not he is required to do so or not. Thus it is possible that he is transgressing a Scriptural commandment.

In resolution, Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains that since the person is obligated to recite the blessing, even if that obligation stems from a doubt, he is not considered to be taking God's name in vain.

25.

Chapter 1, Halachah 15.

26.

See the concluding chapters of Hilchot Talmud Torah for a description of the implications of this ban.

28.

The Turei Zahav 334:18 mentions that the Rambam's view is more lenient than that of the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol who maintains that this leniency applies only when one does not know of the prohibition at all. According to his view, one who knows of the prohibition, but accidentally recites a blessing in vain must be placed under ban.

29.

I.e., the seven names for God mentioned in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, ch. 6.

30.

See Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 4) which quotes Sanhedrin 56a and Temurah 4a as deriving this concept from another prooftext (Deuteronomy 6:13).

31.

For one does not treat something that is truly revered with such carelessness.

32.

See Hilchot Berachot 4:10 which states that when a person recites a blessing in vain, he should say Baruch shem kevod malchuto leolam va'ed, "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever."

33.

Chapter 6, Halachah 1.

34.

For this indicates that he does not accept the Oral Tradition that Moses communicated. For the release of vows is not explicitly stated in the Torah, but instead communicated by the Oral Tradition, as stated above.

35.

See Chapter 6, Halachot 9-10 which gives examples of such situations.

36.

For it is possible that unwittingly, he could take a false oath and thus bring severe retribution upon himself and others. See Gittin 35a which explains how a woman unknowingly took a false oath and caused one of her sons to die.

37.

See Hilchot Nedarim 1:4 which states that keeping an oath or a vow fulfills a Scriptural mitzvah. Nevertheless, there is a difference between oaths and vows. As the Ra'avad (see also Hilchot Nedarim 13:25) mentions, it is desirable to have vows released. Oaths, by contrast, should be observed and not released.

38.
אע"פ שלוקה הנשבע לשוא. א"א והרי אמרו על שבועת שוא ועל כיוצא בה ב"ד של מעלה אין מנקין אותו אבל ב"ד של מטה מלקין אותו ומנקין אותו והרי חייבי מיתות ב"ד מתודין ומתכפר להן ומלקות תחת מיתה עומדת.
39.
מי שנשבע בשמים ובארץ אף על פי שאין כוונתו אלא למי שבראם אין זו שבועה. א"א ליחייב עליה קרבן ומלקות. /השגת הראב"ד/ ומלמדין את העם שלא ינהגו קלות ראש בכך. א"א באמת צריכין שאלה לחכם ועובר משום בל יחל.
40.
בד"א בשאר כתבי הקדש. א"א כמה אני תמה על המחבר הזה מה ראה לחלק בין תורה לשאר כתבי הקדש ואם יש ביניהם לענין בני העיר שמכרו תורה לא יקחו ספרים ולענין מניחין ס"ת ע"ג ספרים אבל לענין קדושה הכל קדוש ומצילין אותן בשבת מפני הדליקה וטעונין גניזה ומטמאין את הידים וקדושים הם לכל דבר כתורה והנשבע בהם ומשקר כמשקר במי שצוה אותן, והריני מודיע שאין הענין הזה כמו שהוא סובר שלא על הנשבע בתורה קאמר אלא על המתפיס בס"ת שאם אמר ככר זו עלי כספר התורה הזה אם מנחא אארעא לא אמר כלום דדעתיה אגוילים וגוילים אין בהם קדושה אלא בשביל האותיות שעליהן הילכך אין כאן התפסה אבל אי נקיט ליה בידיה דעתיה אהזכרות שבו ואזכרות כדבר הנדור הוא שעל ידי הכתיבה והכוונה לשם קדושה הם קדושות וכ"ש אם אמר במה שבתוכה שהיא התפסה ואע"ג דמנחא אארעא, ובירושלמי מפורש בתורה הרי זה מותר כקדושת התורה כלומר ואין זה כדבר המקודש בידי אדם, ככתוב בה הרי זה אסור דקדושה כתוב בה כלומר שהם מקודשים ע"י אדם וכוונתו לקדושה.
41.
עבד שנשבע וכו'. א"א פירוש אם נשבע שיתענה אינו צריך לכפותו שיאכל לפי שלא חל עליו הנדר שנאמר להרע או להיטיב מה הטבה רשות וכו' יצא זה ששבועתו להרע לרבו אבל אם נדר בנזיר צריך שיאמר לו רבו שתה.
42.
ואם עבר ונשבע שיצטער ויעמוד. א"א דוקא בשבועה ושנשבע להרע לעצמו אבל נודר בנדר אפילו להרע לעצמו מצוה להתירו שהרי אמרו הנודר כאילו בנה במה והמקיימו כאילו הקריב עליו קרבן.
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